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"When Frank Lloyd Wright was a boy living in Downtown Madison, he made a lifelong friend named Robert "Robie" Lamp.
Lamp had trouble walking because of a malformed leg, but that didn't diminish his wanderlust. He became a travel agent and real estate entrepreneur who loved to sail. And when Wright and his pal were about 30 years old, Lamp asked the architect to design a house for him that would allow him to see both Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.
Lamp chose a quirky site for his house - in the middle of a Downtown block, part of which was already occupied with older homes. From the roof, he would have the view he wanted. Up there was a garden with grape arbors and a greenhouse, and he could see horizons to the north and south.
The house has stood at 22 N. Butler St. since 1903, but few Madison residents have seen it because other houses block the view of it from the street.
Now, though, people can not only see it if they want, they can rent it. The Lamp House was recently purchased by developer Bruce Bosben, who hopes eventually to develop condos on the block with the Lamp House as its centerpiece. Until then, it will be spruced up and rented out by Bosben's Apex Property Management for $1,400 a month.
The vital statistics are: 1,660 square feet, with living room, dining room, hardwood floors, two kitchens, three bedroooms, two full baths, two fireplaces that don't work and a finished basement. The roof garden was enclosed long ago, though beleaguered cacti still grow in the greenhouse.
The sidewalk is buckled, the lawn bedraggled, white paint is peeling off the cream-colored brick, and there is evidence of student beer parties near the back.
Despite the deferred maintenance, the house has the unmistakable flow and timelessness that characterizes Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. The Lamp House was ahead of its time with its open floor plan. Some of Wright's signature features are present: the flat roof, strong horizontal lines, a central fireplace in the living room with an inglenook off to one side, and Cherokee red trim on the exterior. Sunlight floods the house through the many leaded-glass windows.
Wright, who was famous for creating buildings that opened seamlessly into the landscape, didn't have much landscape to work with in his friend's lot in the middle of a city block. But you can see how he tried to make the best of it. Three sets of leaded glass French doors open onto a rectangular screened porch.
In time, Bosben plans to remove the enclosure on the top floor and restore the rooftop garden. If all goes well, he hopes the Lamp House will be used as a guest house for residents of the condos that he wants to build on the Mifflin Street side of the block."